South Australia, discover the best ways to holiday here this year…
Do a festival (or five) in Adelaide, SA
Each year the Adelaide Festival delivers internationally acclaimed theatre productions, an eclectic array of world-class musicians, breathtaking dance pieces, renowned writers and striking visual arts displays.
The open-access Fringe, meanwhile, sees buildings the city over become venues for all manner of artistic expression; the stately architecture of the North Terrace lit up with cutting-edge projections; the East End parklands transformed into open-air circus and cabaret hubs; and the Botanic Park given over to the eclectic arts and music festival WOMADelaide.
Throughout the year you’ll find enough compelling evidence – from food festival Tasting Australia, the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, the LGBTIQ+ queer arts and cultural festival Feast, Adelaide Film Festival, OzAsia Festival and even guitar and history festivals – to suggest there’s a celebration for every mood in Adelaide that extends well beyond Mad March.
Revisit Kangaroo Island, SA
Take a short break (and make a big difference) on Kangaroo Island.
Come next summer, Hamilton & Dune, a duo of private-hire lodges overlooking picturesque Emu Bay, is sure to be the place to be. Choose between the architecturally designed Dune House, or Hamilton House, a property that can house larger groups but is a little less ‘designer’.
Much has been made about the devastation of local wildlife but the happenings on the pristine beach that makes up Seal Bay Conservation Park is the ultimate good news story: with more than 225 seal pups born during the latest breeding season. Take a guided tour down to the beach or a self-guided stroll along the boardwalk.
Dine at Emu Bay Lavender, a rustic farmgate cafe serving homemade lavender scones the size of plates and handmade lavender ice-cream alongside views of lavender fields. Load up on plenty of local produce before you leave.
Dreaming of diving into the shallows to swim with pods of dolphins? Look no further than Kangaroo Island Marine Adventures. Expect to swim and snorkel with anywhere between 20 to 50 wild dolphins at any one time.
Whether you’re into hooning on a quad bike, sandboarding dunes at Little Sahara or quietly kayaking through picturesque countryside, Kangaroo Island Outdoor Action will deliver the action you crave.
Kangaroo Island Spirits offers a tasting tour of its quirky gin, vodka and liqueur flavours. Or if you prefer a cold one, Kangaroo Island Brewery, located just outside Kingscote, serves up eight craft beers as well as a decent menu.
While we are talking about alcohol, some of the island’s best wineries were affected by the bushfires, but you can get a bottle of The Islander Estate’s flagship Investigator Cabernet Franc at the vineyard’s cellar door. Other wineries to add to your itinerary include Dudley Wines and Bay of Shoals.
Take a seriously picturesque road trip around the island. You’ll need a 4WD with powerful brakes (to avoid the kangaroos) and while there are quicker ways to get to Kangaroo Island than taking the Sealink Ferry, there are none more scenic. First, there’s the drive through the lovely Fleurieu Peninsula, and then the post-ferry bite to be had at Millie Mae’s Pantry, by the ferry terminal.
Fill up your petrol on the island and kit out your rented accommodation with items you’ve purchased from the local supermarket. Head down to Kingscote Gift Shop and load up on souvenirs and check out Penneshaw Market Day if you are on-island on the first Sunday of the month between October and April.
Explore the Flinders Ranges from a traditional perspective, SA
In 2016, the Flinders Ranges National Park was officially renamed Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park to incorporate the traditional name, meaning ‘meeting place’, of its star attraction, Wilpena Pound. And with the only accommodation within the park, Wilpena Pound Resort, under the aegis of the traditional Adnyamathanha owners, you’re all but guaranteed an authentic immersion here.
Take part in any number of its Aboriginal Cultural Tours, from a Yura Udnyu stroll to Old Wilpena Station to a guided cultural walk to Sacred Canyon to see ancient rock engravings. And take a self-guided scenic drive to Arkaroo Rock – a particularly important Aboriginal art site in the Flinders Ranges featuring ochre and charcoal images depicting the creation of Wilpena Pound.
Some 200 kilometres north-east of here lies Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges National Park. The spectacular terrain of this Northern Flinders Ranges park is crowned by a vast salt lake, Lake Frome – or Munda – which plays an important role in the lives of the Adnyamathanha people.
Hiking trails will take you deep into the heart of the rugged landscape, but your best bet is to sign up for a journey with Indigenous owned and operated Iga Warta, which has a range of tours and activities that shine a light on Adnyamathanha culture and the rules for living from the Muda (Dreaming).
St Mary Peak, the highest summit in the Flinders Ranges, is central to the Adnyamathanha creation story, as Uluru is to Anangu. And while its circuit trail is part of the popular Wilpena Pound circuit, its traditional owners prefer that visitors don’t climb the summit and advise stopping at Tanderra Saddle.
Tour the wineries and distilleries of McLaren Vale, SA
A 45-minute-drive south of Adelaide, McLaren Vale is the birthplace of South Australia’s wine industry, but there’s also a spirit of disruption to be found here in the innovative wineries, craft breweries and boutique distilleries that are diversifying the region’s offerings.
Never Never Distilling‘s new distillery and bar encapsulates everything that’s cool, covetable and quality about the award-winning gin brand. You’ll find it on the top of Chalk Hill – offering spectacular panoramas of the region.
Meanwhile, Inkwell Wines has just opened McLaren Vale’s newest luxury cellar door wine-tasting experience, occupying the top floor of a two-storey building made from shipping containers.
And Mitolo Wines’ cellar door has recently relaunched its restaurant as Little Wolf, an osteria-style eatery that presents like a relaxed wine bar with food to match the glass and experience.
All this serves to complement the region’s most famous architecturally adventurous offering, the d’Arenberg Cube – a madcap, five-tier temple to wine complete with a contemporary gallery, the Alternate Realities Museum, on the ground floor.
Other cellar and distillery doors to check out include Hither & Yon; boutique offering Settlers Spirits, with its gin masterclasses; and McLaren Vale Distillery, which is taking a leaf out of Tassie’s book to pursue the whisky trade.
For somewhere to stay that distils the blend of old-world inspiration and contemporary styling typical of the region, look no further than The Vineyard Retreat McLaren Vale, a working vineyard offering boutique accommodation. In a sleek and polished take on the quintessential, one-room ‘in vineyard’ dwellings traditionally found in the northern Rhône, its two cadoles overlook shiraz and old vine.
Go luxe in the Barossa Valley, SA
Jim Carreker, co-owner (along with wife Helen) of luxury vineyard retreat The Louise and its acclaimed restaurant Appellation, in South Australia’s Barossa Valley shares the best experiences to be had in the region.
Two Hands Wine have carefully crafted one of the best wine experiences in the valley and it’s an absolute favourite with our guests. Their Flagship Experience takes guests on their own private tour of some of the valley’s most hidden and exceptional vineyard sites.
Just over a year ago Seppeltsfield Road Distillers opened just 300 metres from The Louise. The gin itself is top-notch but it’s the warm welcome that is the true luxury of this special new addition. From distillery tours with head distiller Nicole to cocktail-making courses with their tasting room manager Bec, you’ll feel at home in an instant.
A five-minute drive from The Louise, Seppeltsfield Wines the winery itself is unique in the world, with the longest and only unbroken collection of single vintage tawny since 1878. Tasting my birth year tawny from the barrel is an experience I’ll truly never forget. Located on the winery grounds are several other must-do cultural icons including top regional restaurant Fino, art gallery JamFactory and boutique natural skincare company Vasse Virgin.
The Barossa is a true culinary region and it all starts at the Barossa Farmers Market every Saturday morning. The best way to experience the market is with chef Matteo Carboni as you start his Saturday cooking class at enoteca and cooking school Casa Carboni. Matteo offers an Italian perspective on Barossan fare and can teach you to make some of the most delicious pasta, among other great recipes.
The Eatery is a new restaurant with a long history. Owned and run by Elli Beer, it’s one of the best spots to enjoy a long lunch. Here’s a local tip: a special menu is available if you book ahead. Elli has recreated some of her mum Maggie’s famous recipes from her much-loved restaurant, The Pheasant Farm. Expect pâté, pheasant pie and other dishes from her greatest hits.
Explore the hip highlights of the Adelaide Hills, SA
A swathe of innovative and imaginative new eateries and establishments are making use of South Australia’s superlative produce and transforming the Adelaide Hills into a culinary destination that celebrates community, sustainability and its market garden history. Here are some highlights.
Lot 100 is a sustainably minded collective set on an idyllic 84-hectare property and former cattle pasture in the Hay Valley. Today it’s home to five different producers – who variously make everything from cloudy apple juice to gin and wine – as well as a paddock-to-plate restaurant serving meats cooked over the fire pit and wood-fired pizzas straight from the oven.
Patch Kitchen & Garden is as cute as it sounds: a licenced cafe set in what was originally Stirling’s post office and general store back in the 1880s. Its all-day breakfast and lunch menus are all about being fresh and in-season and guests are invited to enjoy the rambling villa and gardens it’s set on.
Based in Uraidla, Lost in a Forest is an eclectic, wood-fired oven pizza bar operating out of a 130-year-old church with stencil art covering the walls. It also acts as an unconventional cellar door for Ochota Barrels, a minimal-intervention wine label from part-owner and former punk bass player Taras Ochota.
The 150-year-old Uraidla Hotel was given a quirky makeover a few years ago with community and sustainability at its core: the funky interiors use upcycled furniture and the market garden-inspired menu leans in towards vegan and vegetarian options. On site today there’s also a bakery, cafe and brewery and chickens roaming the gardens. See also the Crafers Hotel and the Stanley Bridge Tavern for more historic pubs in the Adelaide Hills that have been reinvented imaginatively.
The Summertown Aristologist, with its handmade crockery and glassware, is a cellar door with a community focus serving natural wines and a simple, ever evolving menu of hyper-fresh and seasonal meals. Founded three years ago, this hatted restaurant has become something of a destination in itself.
For accommodation, head to CABN’s first-ever off-grid offering, Jude, sequestered in the Adelaide Hills for a suitably hip overnight crashpad. Or check into Mount Lofty House’s new luxury lodge Sequoia or a boutique room at the historic Crafers Hotel.
Go houseboat hiking on the Murray River, SA
From our clifftop perch, pale blue skies and ochre dirt collide. Forty metres below, bands of gum trees push through a sea of mist to reflect in the still mirror of snaking water. Next to me, my 80-year-old mother’s face beams in the burnt-butter light cast by the rising sun. Vast and timeless, the land seems to act as a spirit level, emanating peace and creating a space for shared wonder.
Our second morning on the Murray River Walk is hypnotically beautiful. The day before, our wanderings had taken us over trackless bushland where emus and kangaroos watched from a distance, and winding oxbows lay scattered with pelicans, egrets and herons. We’ll walk 40 kilometres over four days and cruise 70 kilometres along a stretch of river upstream from Renmark in South Australia, close to the Victorian border.
Home is a houseboat, a modern and cosy two-tiered vessel with five cabins, lounge and rooftop spa that we share with eight other guests and three crew. My mother’s desire to connect with a quintessential piece of Australia has brought us here, on our first holiday together since I was a teenager.
Here, the water snakes and curls as it meanders across floodplains and, as water levels vary, so does the walk. There are no tracks or trail markers to follow here; we are far from civilisation. Our guide leads us on animal trails and routes of her own choosing, skirting the river’s edge under the watchful eyes of whistling kites, pelicans and yellow rosellas twittering in the treetops. I enjoy discovering the river on foot but the views seem somehow sweeter from the hot tub on the houseboat’s top deck.
Walking days are leisurely, finishing mid-afternoon before slipping into a hedonistic evening of nibbles and three-course dinners paired with bottomless local wines. Internationally acclaimed chef Andrew Fielke, a specialist in the use of native ingredients, is the master behind the menu.
Food is plucked from the surrounding riverland: yabby bisque, Murray cod with lemon myrtle crust and kangaroo osso buco. Wilted buds of saltbush, picked during our rambles, are mixed with the morning’s scrambled eggs. We are not just walking the land, we are tasting it, too.
Have an adventure on the Eyre Peninsula, SA
South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula is something of a natural wonderland with untold amounts of outdoor adventure to be had. Anchoring yourself around Port Lincoln on the Lower Eyre Peninsula will provide an ideal overview and offer up a whole raft of kid-friendly accommodation options.
Spend a day in the water with Adventure Bay Charters or Calypso Star Charters (both eco-certified) to get up close to a great white shark in its natural habitat or swim with sea lions, adorably known as puppy dogs of the sea.
Spend another day in nearby Lincoln National Park for its myriad boating, fishing, beachcombing, whale-watching and nature walk opportunities. Hole yourself up on family-friendly Stamford Beach for a while for some beach cricket and safe swimming.
Also in the area, Mikkira Station is a restored homestead (circa 1842) that is these days home to a colony of wild koalas.It’s also a lovely spot for a picnic and a bushwalk, too.
Similarly, Glen Forest Tourist Park is a wildlife haven with baby animals on tap for feeding and cuddling, plus mini-golf, Segway rides and a whole host of creatures to spot in the 50-hectare animal park. There’s also a vineyard on site, so take away a couple of bottles of shiraz or sauvignon blanc for after hours.
Also on the Eyre Peninsula: go swimming at some of South Australia’s loveliest beaches in Coffin Bay National Park. Hire a boat from EP Boat Hire to sail around beautiful Coffin Bay. Swim with dolphins and sea lions at Baird Bay on the west coast. Take a fascinating day trip to the ancient Gawler Ranges.
Drive the Limestone Coast
The natural wonderland of the Limestone Coast marks the start (or conclusion) of the Southern Ocean Drive. Begin in Mount Gambier, a city known for its sunken garden and dazzling cenotes, before sampling for yourself the region’s culinary clout.
South Australia’s south-eastern corner lies in a sweet spot between the Southern Ocean and fertile farmland, which accounts for the mouth-watering roll call of homegrown produce it’s famed for: the freshest seafood, prized beef and earthy reds sit alongside a roster of dairy, duck, venison, kangaroo and emu.
Make a reservation at The Tasting Room for the ultimate in Wagyu beef: this boutique steakhouse located on-farm at Mayura Station epitomises the essence of paddock-to-plate dining.
After leaving this fine filling station, take a detour inland to the terra rossa soil of the Coonawarra, the most well-known of the Limestone Coast’s six wine regions – glamp in the vines at Bellwether Wines – and to the nearby World Heritage-listed Naracoorte Caves, one of the world’s most important fossil sites.
Next, it’s back to the coast to hit up the seaside pleasures and restaurants of Robe; you can’t go past Sails at Robe for a seasonal dish of southern rock lobster grilled with garlic butter or a seafood platter at the historic Caledonian Inn, which also offers rooms at the pub and beachside cottages to stay in.
The next day, head into the remarkable wetland area of the Coorong, with its sand dunes and coastal lagoons, before kicking on for the rest of the Southern Ocean Drive, taking in the sea and vines of the Fleurieu Peninsula and pristine Kangaroo Island.